A Homeowners Guide to Your Gutters

A Homeowners Guide to Your Gutters

Water can be one of the most problematic influences on your home. It can pool near the foundation, causing leaks in the basement. It can also damage landscape plants, create walking hazards, and lead to the growth of algae on your brick or siding.


To prevent these problems, you have gutters. Gutters are designed to divert water away from your house and landscape, carrying it safely away and discharging it.


Of course, your gutters are only as good as your upkeep. Gutter problems can create more damage than if you had no gutters at all. Follow these simple steps to keep your gutters flowing effectively.


Clean Them Regularly


The greatest enemy of good gutter performance is debris. Any number of materials can accumulate there, but leaves, soil, and shingle grit top the list. The buildup will be slow at first before it begins to build up against the gutter nails, snag on the downspout screws, or otherwise form an obstruction that keeps water from flowing freely. Your first sign of this problem will be gutters that overflow–sometimes very loudly–during a hard rain.


Cleaning gutters is a messy, wet, and dangerous job. Be sure to use gloves. You’ll also want to protect the area below from the messy things you throw down. You might simply take a large bucket up the ladder with you, or you may choose to cover the area with a tarp and just toss everything. Use caution on your ladder, making sure you have a solid base for it.


Manage Debris Sources


At some point, you may notice that you’re having to spend more and more time at the top of that ladder. The danger, mess, and time involved will encourage you to find out more about why your gutters are filling up so quickly.


The small amount of soil that arrives in your gutter is probably washing in from the roof after being deposited there by the wind. A bigger problem is the shingle grit. If you are seeing a higher and higher amount of it in your gutters, your roof may be degraded to the point that it needs repair or replacement. Likewise, a growing number of leaves could suggest that your trees need to be trimmed back. If a lot of leaves are falling during the summer, the tree may have a disease or other issue.


Check Discharge Points


Sometimes the problem with gutters is actually in the downspouts. The gutters themselves can be perfectly clean but will still overflow if the downspouts won’t allow water to come out. The two elbows typically found at the top of the downspout may get congested, especially if leaves begin to hang on the screws that hold everything together. If you live in an area with prolonged dry spells, you might actually have birds or other animals take up residence in the downspouts. Collisions from mowers, cars, and people can also crush downspouts and slow their flow.


A quick shortcut for this is simply to climb to the top of the downspout with a garden hose, then spray it into the downspout. If the water immediately comes out at the bottom, it’s clear. If the downspout begins to fill, you have a problem somewhere along the way.


Inspect Installation


The performance of your gutters is only as good as their installation and condition. Gutters that slope in the wrong direction will fill with water, creating an environment where mosquitoes and even plants may grow. Other times, gutters will begin to sag as the nails that hold them up rust or come out of the wood.


Check your gutters for the proper slope so that they will empty completely. Make sure everything is nailed into strong, solid wood, and replace any rusty or bent nails.


Properly maintained, your gutters will keep your home and its surroundings dry and safe. These simple steps will help you make that happen.

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